Quotes from Pale Fire

Vladimir Nabokov ·  246 pages

Rating: (32.8K votes)


“All colors made me happy: even gray.
My eyes were such that literally they
Took photographs. ”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Pale Fire


“The sun is a thief: she lures the sea
and robs it. The moon is a thief:
he steals his silvery light from the sun.
The sea is a thief: it dissolves the moon.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Pale Fire


“A thousand years ago five minutes were
Equal to forty ounces of fine sand.
Outstare the stars. Infinite foretime and
Infinite aftertime: above your head
They close like giant wings, and you are dead.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Pale Fire


“There was a time in my demented youth
When somehow I suspected that the truth
About survival after death was known
To every human being: I alone
Knew nothing, and a great conspiracy
Of books and people hid the truth from me.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Pale Fire


“I was the shadow of the waxwing slain/By the false azure in the windowpane...”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Pale Fire



“I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the windowpane;
I was the smudge of ashen fluff -and I
Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky.
And from the inside, too, I'd duplicate
Myself, my lamp, an apple on a plate:
Uncurtaining the night, I'd let dark glass
Hang all the furniture above the grass,
And how delightful when a fall of snow
Covered my glimpse of lawn and reached up so
As to make chair and bed exactly stand
Upon that snow, out in that crystal land!”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Pale Fire


“We are absurdly accustomed to the miracle of a few written signs being able to contain immortal imagery, involutions of thought, new worlds with live people, speaking, weeping, laughing. We take it for granted so simply that in a sense, by the very act of brutish routine acceptance, we undo the work of the ages, the history of the gradual elaboration of poetical description and construction, from the treeman to Browning, from the caveman to Keats. What if we awake one day, all of us, and find ourselves utterly unable to read? I wish you to gasp not only at what you read but at the miracle of its being readable.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Pale Fire


“And he absolutely had to find her at once to tell her that he adored her, but the large audience before him separated him from the door, and the notes reaching him through a succession of hands said that she was not available; that she was inaugurating a fire; that she had married an american businessman; that she had become a character in a novel; that she was dead.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Pale Fire


“All the seven deadly sins are peccadilloes but without three of them, Pride, Lust, and Sloth, poetry might never have been born.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Pale Fire


“do what only a true artist can do ... pounce upon the forgotten butterfly of revelation”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Pale Fire



“My God died young. Theolatry i found
Degrading, and its premises, unsound.
No free man needs God; but was I free?”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Pale Fire


“Solitude is the playfield of Satan.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Pale Fire


“Reality is neither the subject nor the object of true art which creates its own special reality having nothing to do with the average "reality" perceived by the communal eye.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Pale Fire


“I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the windowpane;
I was the smudge of ashen fluff -and I
Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Pale Fire


“I cannot disobey something which I do not know and the reality of which I have the right to deny.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Pale Fire



“If I correctly understand the sense of this succinct observation, our poet suggests here that human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Pale Fire


“Of the not very many ways known of shedding one's body, falling, falling, falling is the supreme method, but you have to select your sill or ledge very carefully so as not to hurt yourself or others. Jumping from a high bridge is not recommended even if you cannot swim, for wind and water abound in weird contingencies, and tragedy ought not to culminate in a record dive or a policeman's promotion. If you rent a cell in the luminous waffle, room 1915 or 1959, in a tall business centre hotel browing the star dust, and pull up the window, and gently - not fall, not jump - but roll out as you should for air comfort, there is always the chance of knocking clean through into your own hell a pacific noctambulator walking his dog; in this respect a back room might be safer, especially if giving on the roof of an old tenacious normal house far below where a cat may be trusted to flash out of the way. Another popular take-off is a mountaintop with a sheer drop of say 500 meters but you must find it, because you will be surprised how easy it is to miscalculate your deflection offset, and have some hidden projection, some fool of a crag, rush forth to catch you, causing you to bounce off it into the brush, thwarted, mangled and unnecessarily alive. The ideal drop is from an aircraft, your muscles relaxed, your pilot puzzled, your packed parachute shuffled off, cast off, shrugged off - farewell, shootka (little chute)! Down you go, but all the while you feel suspended and buoyed as you somersault in slow motion like a somnolent tumbler pigeon, and sprawl supine on the eiderdown of the air, or lazily turn to embrace your pillow, enjoying every last instant of soft, deep, death-padded life, with the earth's green seesaw now above, now below, and the voluptuous crucifixion, as you stretch yourself in the growing rush, in the nearing swish, and then your loved body's obliteration in the Lap of the Lord.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Pale Fire


“for better or worse, it is the commentator who has the last word.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Pale Fire


“The summer night was starless and stirless, with distant spasms of silent lightning.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Pale Fire


“that is his head, containing a brain of a different brand than that of the synthetic jellies preserved in the skulls around him”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Pale Fire



“Do those clowns really believe what they teach?”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Pale Fire


“There is a very loud amusement park right in front of my present lodgings.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Pale Fire


“Coordinating there
Events and objects with remote events
And vanished objects. Making ornaments
Of accidents and possibilities.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Pale Fire


“Speaking of novels,’ I said, ‘you remember we decided once, you, your husband and I, that Proust’s rough masterpiece was a huge, ghoulish fairy tale, an asparagus dream, totally unconnected with any possible people in any historical France, a sexual travestissement and a colossal farce, the vocabulary of genius and its poetry, but no more, impossibly rude hostesses, please let me speak, and even ruder guests, mechanical Dostoevskian rows and Tolstoian nuances of snobbishness repeated and expanded to an unsufferable length, adorable seascapes, melting avenues, no, do not interrupt me, light and shade effects rivaling those of the greatest English poets, a flora of metaphors, described—by Cocteau, I think—as “a mirage of suspended gardens,” and, I have not yet finished, an absurd, rubber-and-wire romance between a blond young blackguard (the fictitious Marcel), and an improbable jeune fille who has a pasted-on bosom, Vronski’s (and Lyovin’s) thick neck, and a cupid’s buttocks for cheeks; but—and now let me finish sweetly—we were wrong, Sybil, we were wrong in denying our little beau ténébreux the capacity of evoking “human interest”: it is there, it is there—maybe a rather eighteenth-centuryish, or even seventeenth-centuryish, brand, but it is there. Please, dip or redip, spider, into this book [offering it], you will find a pretty marker in it bought in France, I want John to keep it. Au revoir, Sybil, I must go now. I think my telephone is ringing.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Pale Fire


“I am a strict vegetarian...The usual questions were fired at me about eggnogs and milkshakes being or not being acceptable to one of my persuasion. Shade said that with him it was the other way around: he must make a definite effort to partake of a vegetable. Beginning a salad, was to him like stepping into sea water on a chilly day, and he had always to brace himself in order to attack the fortress of an apple.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Pale Fire



“and finally there was the sleepless night
when i decided to explore and fight
the foul, the inadmissible abyss,
devoting all my twisted life to this
one task. today i'm sixty-one. waxwings
are berry-pecking. a cicada sings.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Pale Fire


About the author

Vladimir Nabokov
Born place: in Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation
Born date April 22, 1899
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